Van Wijngaarden Award 2011 for Éva Tardos and John Butcher

Publication date
10 Feb 2011

The Hungarian computer scientist Éva Tardos and the New Zealand mathematician John Butcher receive the Van Wijngaarden Award 2011 on Thursday evening, 10 February 2011. This prize is awarded on the occasion of the 65th anniversary of Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica (CWI) in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. The award is intended for scientists who contributed significantly to their fields.

Éva Tardos is Schurman Professor of Computer Science at Cornell University in Ithaca, USA. Her research interests comprise algorithms and algorithmic game theory, in which she especially takes selfishness into account. Most of the time, an algorithm focuses on a problem which has a single objective – for example, how to find something as quickly as possible. However, in many applications people are involved who pursue their own individual goals. Tardos investigates the influence of this selfish behaviour on the quality of the result of an algorithm compared to a situation when there is no selfishness. Éva Tardos has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

The mathematician John Butcher, Emeritus Professor at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, works on numerical methods for ordinary differential equations. Applications include the simulation of waves. Butcher also emphasizes the power of pictures. Usually, contributions to mathematics are expressed using a combination of words and formulas. Sometimes the use of pictures can help to understand mathematics. This way, there can be easier access to some otherwise difficult ideas. John Butcher is Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand, the New Zealand Mathematical Society and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics.

The Van Wijngaarden Award is named after Adriaan van Wijngaarden (1916–1987), one of the founders of computer science in the Netherlands. About a year after the foundation of the Mathematisch Centrum on 11 February 1946, Van Wijngaarden was employed as head of the computing department. From 1961 until 1980, he was director of the Mathematisch Centrum, currently known as Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica. The Van Wijngaarden Award consists of a bronze sculpture by Hanneke van den Bergh.

It is the second time the Van Wijngaarden Award is awarded. In 2006, during the celebration of the 60th anniversary of CWI, the first winners were Nancy Lynch (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and Persi Diaconis (Stanford University).